A spokesman for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday the embattled Democrat was “having too much fun” while celebrating reopening efforts this week, even as his administration faces mounting criticism of its leadership during the coronavirus pandemic.
De Blasio was pictured riding the “Cyclone” roller coaster at Coney Island as its amusement parks reopened on Friday. Earlier in the week, de Blasio visited the set of the “Nora From Queens” television show and delivered remarks to celebrate the reopening of Lincoln Center and the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
The mayor’s photo ops at Coney Island and other venues came as he and other leaders promote New York City’s recovery. While vaccination efforts have yielded progress in recent weeks, residents have criticized de Blasio for failing to address crises exacerbated by the pandemic, including surges in violent crime, homelessness and business closures.
De Blasio’s press secretary, Bill Neidhardt, pushed back on the notion that the mayor’s public appearances were in poor taste.
“The overall crime rate is down and the number of people facing homelessness has not increased, but more and more businesses are opening up,” Neidhardt said in a statement. “New York City is winning and all you wet blankets are losing! You can’t bring us down! Stop rooting against our comeback, it’s un-American, unpatriotic and lame.”
Recent statistics released by the New York Police Department showed that shootings increased nearly 50% to 245 in the first quarter of 2021. Shooting-related injuries rose 47% to 274, while homicides rose 13.5% to 84, Newsday reported. Richard Aborn, head of the Citizens Crime Commission, described the crime surge as “deeply, deeply concerning.”
The NYPD’s stats showed that overall crime rose 2.4% in March 2021 compared to the same month last year.
Earlier this week, de Blasio faced criticism after he said “New Yorkers don’t live in fear” following an incident in which a tourist was hit by a stray bullet near Times Square. The mayor later walked back his statement and said his office was “going to deal with” the spike in violent incidents.
“What I was saying … and I appreciate the opportunity to clarify, is New Yorkers — yeah, we have a lot of challenges we have to overcome, but we overcome them,” de Blasio said. “Is there anxiety? Of course. Is there fear? Yes. I’m not saying there’s not any. I’m saying New Yorkers don’t get intimidated. We fight back.”
Critics have accused De Blasio and his political rival, embattled Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, of supporting strict lockdown measures that gutted the city’s restaurants and small businesses. While exact figures are unknown, a recent study from Facebook and the Small Business Roundtable found that 31% of New York’s small and medium-sized businesses closed during the pandemic.
The pandemic has also resulted in higher levels of homeless in New York City, according to The Coalition for the Homeless, an advocacy group. Last December, the organization said the number of single adults sleeping in New York City shelters each day exceeded 20,000 for the first time in history.
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